A few weeks ago I had my hearing checked because I had noticed a difference in how things sounded when I listened with my right ear versus how they sounded when I listened with my left ear. To be more precise, when I had a phone to my right ear I could not hear the lower overtones as well as I could with my left ear. As a musician, I really worried about having my hearing compromised, which would be a huge loss.
As it turned out my hearing is within normal range except that I have one frequency in the lower register that I can no longer hear with my right ear. The technician that gave me the test said that it is not unusual for people to have this kind of selective hearing loss but that it was a little unusual that someone would notice such a specific loss. She said that musicians were more likely to notice this kind of loss than people who were not trained musicians.
When you are a college music major one of the things that are a part of your curriculum is “ear training.” This is a combination of musical dictation, sight singing, and listening to musical excerpts, that helps you learn how to listen and what to listen for. It is this intentional program of learning how to listen that helps musicians hear what they need to when they are performing so that they can make the many minute adjustments that contribute to an artful performance.
In a lot of ways, the life of faith has a lot in common with ear training. Jesus once said that some “people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears.” (Matthew 13:15, NRSV) It was his way of describing a certain kind of hardness of heart in which people ignored the people around them who were in need. Contrariwise, he also commended others who had been trained to see with compassion by saying, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”
Here’s the deal: we can train ourselves to see and hear the injustices around us or we can train ourselves to ignore them. The saddest thing is not that we notice injustice and choose to ignore it (although that would be sad) but that our senses have become dulled to its presence.